By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Funk music has always been about the groove but rarely about the message. Still, even the most cursory pass of the genre shows a consciousness burbling on top of the beat — everyone from James Brown to Gil Scott-Heron brought politics into the mix. Teddy Presberg crams a lot of musical styles under his umbrella; funk is a part of the equation, alongside jazz-guitar licks, trip-hoppy samples and clacky drum-machine beats. On his new seven-song EP, Apocalypse Yesterday, he modulates his approach from largely guitar-fueled instrumental jams to more message-driven songs. It's a bold move for someone who has risen toward the top of this city's amorphous jazz-and-jam scene, and the layering of rhetoric on top of robotic beats and soulful keys is not exactly seamless. The music, a mix of hip-hop drum patterns and various ambient electric piano mood pieces and synth-scapes, never disappoints. But songs like "Cowboy Dreams" and its brief, unfinished knock on George W. Bush's post-9/11 policies feel about ten years too late.
According to the EP's press release, these songs began as long-form jams after Presberg decamped to a remote cabin with some old keyboards, dusty drum machines and a few musician friends. Slicing the music into discrete tracks didn't allow for a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, and as such many of these pieces ride on a steady groove or merely feel like an in medias res drop-in. The title track glides on a squelchy synth bass line and some ambient jazz organ with sampled and mutated vocals offering the only lyrics. "Nuclear Weapon" gets closest to marrying Presberg's talents: The Auto-Tuned vocals glide over a thin, sharp beat, as his heavily chorused guitar provides its own narrative. Presberg's politics are largely boilerplate and undeveloped in the context of these songs; his ideas aren't going to radicalize anyone one way or the other. But for a performer who is used to letting his guitar do the talking, Apocalypse Yesterday shows the first steps — some stumbles, some big strides — of an artist finding his voice.
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